“Did you tell me to shut up!”, howls Jehnny Beth, lead singer of UK post-punk group Savages, during the opening song of their punishingly direct hour and a fifteen minute set last Wednesday night at the Catalyst. “Shut Up”, the opening track off of Savages critically acclaimed debut album, Silence Yourself, exists as a thesis statement for a band that has consistently reclaimed spaces dominated by the masculine since the release of that album in 2013. Taking stage at the Catalyst this past Wednesday the band basked in a white glow of stage lights, appearing spectral almost ethereal letting their music take up every inch of space in the room. No one, in the moderately packed Catalyst Club, could escape the hypnotic grooves of bassist Ayse Hassan. Her punchy bass at times called for a sway or a groove, and at times felt like a kick in the gut screaming “come on, motherfu**er, move”. Matched with the tight concise drumming of Fay Milton and the swirling distortion of Gemma Thompson’s guitar melodies, the quartet sonically broke down the barriers between the crowd and themselves. The slow-churning “Adore”, the lead single off their latest album Adore Life, moved along at a creep, “is it human to adore life?”, like a brief rumination during an argument; a space in which the two combatants question their position. Jehnny Beth’s performance started as a whisper, but by the final refrain of “I adore life”, she had become a room sized specter overlooking the crowd with eyes intent on letting no one out alive. The strobing lights only added to the spectacle of it all, the band flashing between the real and unreal sometimes only existing sonically. In a lot of ways that is what that thesis statement on “Shut Up” meant: taking up space when otherwise told not to, to emote and exist in spaces that only men had ruled (here of course, the post-punk genre, the explosive live show, the seedy rock venue). Their final song, and a conclusion paragraph to the opening thesis, “Fuckers” combined the slow-churn of “Adore” with the frantic explosion of sound in “Shut Up” with the chorus, “don’t let the fuckers get you down”, being screamed like a mantra coming from the lips of a banshee. By the end of the set the audience was pummeled into obedience knowing the truth: this is Savages’ space we just get to visit.
Written by Gabe Lopez
Photography by Brandon Oleksy